India ranked 132 out of 191 countries in the 2021 Human Development Index (HDI), according to a report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
India’s HDI value of 0.633 places the country in the medium human development category, lower than its value of 0.645 in the 2020 report. India ranked 131 among 189 countries in the 2020 human development index.
“Like global trends, in India’s case, the drop in HDI from 0.645 in 2019 to 0.633 in 2021 can be attributed to falling life expectancy – 69.7 to 67.2 years. India’s expected years of schooling stand at 11.9 years, and the mean years of schooling are at 6.7 years,” the report said.
Human development — a measure of a nation’s health, education, and average income — has declined for two years in a row — 2020 and 2021, reversing five years of progress, the report said. This is in line with the global decline, indicating that human development across the world has stalled for the first time in 32 years, the report said.
The report said a large contributor to the Human Development Index’s recent decline is a global drop in life expectancy, down from 72.8 years in 2019 to 71.4 years in 2021.
The latest Human Development Report, ‘Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World’, launched by UNDP, argues that layers of uncertainty are stacking up and interacting to unsettle life in unprecedented ways.
“The world is scrambling to respond to back-to-back crises. We have seen with the cost of living and energy crises that, while it is tempting to focus on quick fixes like subsidizing fossil fuels, immediate relief tactics are delaying the long-term systemic changes we must make,” said Achim Steiner, administrator, UNDP.
“We are collectively paralyzed in making these changes. In a world defined by uncertainty, we need a renewed sense of global solidarity to tackle our interconnected, common challenges,” Steiner said.
These intersecting crises have impacted India’s development trajectory just as they have in much of the world.
The HDI measures progress on three key dimensions of human development—a long and healthy life, access to education, and a decent standard of living. It is calculated using four indicators — life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling, and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.
“The Human Development Report shows that progress globally is in reverse. India’s decline in human development mirrors this trend impacted by intersecting crises,” said Shoko Noda, UNDP Resident Representative in India.
While some countries are beginning to get back on their feet, recovery is uneven and partial, further widening inequalities in human development. Despite a significant economic recovery in 2021, the health crisis intensified, with two-thirds of countries recording even further reductions in life expectancy at birth, the report said.
The report also suggested that stress, sadness, anger, and worry have been increasing over the last decade, now reaching record levels. On average, countries spend less than 2 per cent of their healthcare budgets on mental health, which limits access to mental health services for citizens globally.
Uncertainty, inequality, and insecurity go hand in hand with polarisation and lack of trust. Polarisation and mistrust shrink our capacity for social dialogue and stifle collective action, it said.
The report recommends implementing policies that focus on 3 Is— Investment, Insurance, Innovation.
Investment — from renewable energy to preparedness for pandemics. Insurance — including social protection (to prepare our societies for the ups and downs of an uncertain world). Innovation in its many forms — technological, economic, cultural — can also build capacities to respond to whatever challenges come next.
“Policies that focus on the 3Is will enable people to thrive in the face of uncertainty…,”said Noda.